Starlin Castro's Hamstring Scare A Stark Reminder Of Chicago Cubs' Dire Options

By Thom Tsang
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Here it is, folks – I present to you the last possible thing that a Chicago Cubs fan want to read this spring:

Though, given the state of the team right now, I’d think most would just skip the incredulity and disappointment phases, and head straight towards indifference.

It is the Cubs, after all.

The news on Starlin Castro’s legs aren’t all doom and gloom, though. Paul Sullivan did say that the team’s 22-year old shortstop was working out after Wednesday’s game, and according to Cubs manager Dale Sveum, Castro’s ailment isn’t a pulled hamstring.

That said, it’s a day-to-day situation right now, and you can bet that the team will take as much time as they to have to in order to make sure that Castro comes back at full health.

Let’s hope that the young All-Star will be able to resist the temptations of beating that timeline. A re-aggravation of the injury and the ensuing missed time would be a devastating blow to a team that had seen their share of misfortunes over the last season, and leave them with very few palatable options on the field.

But should the worst-case scenario occur with Castro, what are the team’s options?

The good news is that the team do have warm bodies to put on the field who can have versatility on the infield. The bad news? Well, they probably shouldn’t be starting there.

Luis Valbuena could find his backup infield role increased to beyond third base, but he doesn’t won’t have the kind of athleticism Castro has (or Darwin Barney‘s, for that matter), and his .219/.310/.340 triple slash is going to translate to pretty sad results at the plate while trying to replace Starlin’s power-speed combo.

You could find slightly nicer things to say about Brent Lillibridge, whose versatility gives him a decent chance to earn a bench spot on the Cubs as a non-roster invite.

Though a free-swinger (30.2 percent whiff rate over career), Lillibridge is just one year removed from showing pretty good promise with the Chicago White Sox with 13 homers and 10 steals over 216 PA as a backup, and he would be an intriguing option to take over for an injured Castro, if only to see whether he can get close to that upside.

Even then, you’d be counting on a career backup who has spent two seasons batting under the Mendoza line, and who posted a .195/.250/.274 line in 2012.

As for prospects? Well, the Cubs have some hope there, but they’re just not ready. The team isn’t going to waste an option on Junior Lake, who is groomed to play at third base, and top prospect Javier Baez is just 20-years old, and bound to start in high-A.

So, to put it in short: no, the Cubs would not be a fun team to watch if Castro hurt himself for an extended period of time.

Luckily, it didn’t come to that on Wednesday. Let’s hope the baseball gods will keep their minor scare on the Cubs franchise at just that, because anything more severe might just turn this team into a horror show in 2013.

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